Friday, November 25, 2011

Rainy days

It has been raining solidly for 4 days. The little hint of summer that we had here in Sydney last week has been convincingly washed away. In some ways this makes me very nervous - our wedding reception is outdoors - and it also makes me sad because it means the dahlia season for Sydney will be delayed, and dahlias were my number one choice for wedding flowers (which I am doing myself).

However, I am trying to find a positive outlook on all this rain, and I didn't have to look very far:

 My zucchini plants are going absolutely beserk. Would you believe I paid $2 for a tiny punnet of seedlings from Bunnings two weeks ago?

Hello, delicious zucchini flower. You will soon be stuffed with fetta and fried, and on my plate for dinner.

Maybe the rain can be forgiven just this once.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cushion project

We have an area at our upcoming wedding reception that needs some colour. It is a plain space, with white couches and a couple of coffee tables. I saw the photo above months ago (and I don't have a credit for it, sorry!) and was really inspired by the colours and textures used in this little collection of cushions. 

Off I went to IKEA and, 2 hours and a $1 hotdog later, I emerged with a stash of 8 cushion inserts ($1.99 each! You can't beat that!) and a mission to make a lounge area full of colour.

We don't really have a colour scheme. We have Mexican influenced decorations, which includes a bold emerald green, magenta, midnight blue and royal purple. I have decided to make cushions in solid colours using some interesting textural techniques, like the ones above. I particularly like the woven yellow and the circular pale blue with the pleats coming to the centre. I can't quite work out what's going on with the circular pink one, but it looks cool too.

Stay tuned for the results of my cushion sewing project!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's been a long time.

Is anybody out there? *tap tap* Is this thing on? Hello?

Oh HI! It's me, Emma! I'm back and I do apologise for the silence. What have I been doing?

Well, planning a wedding. I get married in 3 weeks, you guys. THREE WEEKS!! That's pretty soon. 

Also, mucking around in the kitchen.

Clockwise from top left: Raspberry and vanilla buttercake with cream cheese icing (a version of this); corn fritters with avocado, bacon and coriander; raspberry scones; and spinach, bean and chorizo soup.

And a bit of fancy dress, of course! This was for a friend's 30th Safari themed party.

So what's happening with NeverEver? Why did I abandon it for so long? Why so quiet? To be honest, I felt a bit over it. I was starting to not enjoy making all my handmade cuties on demand. I like to make things at my own pace sometimes, you know? And I found that I was feeling resentful every time a sale came through, instead of jumping off my chair with joy as I did when I first started making sales. I needed a little break, to step away from Etsy, and I am glad I did.

But now (and it does seem a strange time to feel this, in the middle of crazy wedding stuff and just before Christmas), I do feel like I would like to jump back in again - with a bit of a twist. I am going to sell mainly one-off pieces out of gorgeous fabrics from my stash. Classic denim and my bib range will stay, but everything else will be an as-I-feel-like-it production line. I have a huge exciting cupboard overflowing with bits and pieces, and I can't wait to use them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How to Make a Patchwork Baby Quilt: Part Two

Last week I wrote half a how-to on making a patchwork baby quilt. Today I am going to write the rest, so you can finish off your creation, stand back, admire it, and wait for all the compliments.
We left off last week after cutting out all our squares, working out colour placement, and having all our measurements (with seam allowances!) correct and ready to go. Now it's time to sew them all together.
Do one row at a time, pinning square to square with the right sides together, until you have a long line of squares. Repeat for all your other rows. Press open the seams as you go. The aim is to get these squares sitting as flat as possible.

When you have done all your rows, move on to the columns. Pin the rows together at the join in the seam, making sure you keep the seam allowances opened out flat, like this:

Once you have pinned all the way down the column, stitch it together carefully, again being aware of the open seam allowances and keeping them flat.

Repeat for the remaining columns. When you have done them all, press the seam allowances open and flat again, and then press the whole thing so everything is lying the right way.

Cut your border fabric pieces. I decided to have the top and bottom horizontal pieces go right to the edge, and the verticals to meet the top and bottom border. Make sure you are quite careful with measurements here. Allow seam allowance for one side only, as the other edge will be bound with bias tape.

Stitch your border pieces on, and again press the seams open and flat.
Now we are going to mount the backing fabric onto the batting. Make sure they are of the same measurement, and Lay your batting out completely flat. Lay the backing fabric on top, and then loosely hand stitch a tacking stitch through both layers in wide diagonal lines. This will assist you when it comes to sewing the patchworked layer on: if you don't do it, you will find that the backing fabric will move around, bunch up, and look generally ugly.

Now, turn your backing and batting piece over so the batting is up. Lay your patchworked piece on top, right side up. It will look too small. Be assured that it is NOT, it just needs a bit of cajoling. Stitching together so many squares has made the fabric tighter, and we need to give it a bit of a stretch out. This is good, though: if it were loose, the fabric would bunch up when you sew it, and that is a nightmare you don't want to have.

This is where you will need a LOT of pins. You need to pin every side of every square. Start with the edge, where the bias tape will go, gently pulling and manipulating the patchworking so the fabric gives a little and meets the edge. It's ok if it is a few mm off. You can trim when you are finished.
Work your way in from the edge, pinning each square. Make sure your lines stay straight and don't get warped by your fabric manipulation.

This is what you want it to look like all pinned.

Ok - now you are ready to sew all the layers together. Starting from the middle, ditch stitch along all rows and columns. This is stitching in the seam, so your work will be almost invisible.

Sew around the very edge of the quilt. This stitching line will be hidden by bias tape. Trim any excess batting or backing fabric, so you have a neat straight edge.
Pin your bias tape evenly, half underneath and half on top. If you are worried about the underneath slipping whilst stitching, you could hand tack this part; but I was in a bit of a rush and so just pinned it quite heavily.

Stitch 1mm out from the inside edge of the bias tape, enclosing the three layers in a bias tape sandwich. You can mitre the corners if you like, as I did, or you can fold them another way.

Give the quilt a really good press, especially the bias tape edge.

You are finished! What do you think? I gave mine to my friend last weekend for her baby shower and she loved it. Nothing like a handmade gift!

Friday, April 29, 2011

How to make a Patchwork Baby Quilt: Part One

I'm nearly finished the patchwork quilt that I am making for my friend's baby shower this weekend. I have never quilted before, and never made a patchwork, even though I had good intentions a few months ago. But I thoroughly enjoyed making it, and not being a quilter, I thought I would write a little how-to for other people who may think that patchwork is beyond them, or that it will take an age. It isn't, and it doesn't!

I don't have a fancy sewing machine, or a special rotary cutter, or a mat with measurements for lining up squares. None of that! I made up my instructions as I went along. Easy. So here we go!

First, decide on your measurements. I wanted a quilt suitable for the pram, car seat, or the floor, not a cot size (which is considerably bigger). I ended up with the strange measurement of 90cm x 66cm (a result of the width of the batting... see below).
You will need:
  • Scissors
  • Pins (a lot)
  • Needle and thread
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • 70cm of backing fabric
  • 20cm of border fabric
  • 20cm each of 4 different pattern fabrics
  • 3.5 metres of 3cm wide bias binding
  • ?cm of Batting (the warm middle filler). There are a million different widths and varieties available. I chose one that was 100% needled cotton, which means it won't bunch up in the wash. The amount you buy needs to be big enough to cut your quilt size, obviously, but I bought enough for two layers as I wanted it to be snuggly for winter.

Now, to choose your fabrics. I had a few restrictions, because it is a quilt for an as yet unborn child, and I don't know if it is a boy or a girl. So neutral colours were the go. I also decided to use 100% cotton fabrics only. I chose a white with a bunny pattern, a mint greeny-blue polka dot, a lemon and white abstract pattern, and a flocked white spot. I chose a lemon yellow homespun for the border, and white homespun for the back, with white bias binding for the edge.

Next, draw your pattern. Don't be afraid - this is simply a rough sketch so you can work out your measurements and colour placement. Behold, the technical drawing:

I worked out that for a 90 x 66 quilt, I would do 8cm squares. 7 columns and 10 rows, plus a 5cm border. Then I coloured the squares in to make sure that they looked ok, and to work out how many to cut. I needed 19 bunnies, 19 white spots, 16 blue dots and 16 lemon patterns.

*Important: at this point, before you start drawing your squares, work out your seam allowances. I decided to do 5mm for two reasons: it is the width of my sewing machine foot, and it also made it a round 1cm to add to my 8cm squares, making them 9cm cut.

Wash and tumble dry your fabrics to pre-shrink them (nothing worse than a puckering quilt after the first wash). Then give them a good press and rule the grid squares on the wrong side of the fabric, using a square ruler and a pencil. Cut them out. This part needs to be done with high precision, otherwise you will be kicking yourself later when your squares don't line up and your quilt top is too small for the batting.

On the batting, lay out your squares in your decided pattern.

At this point I had a bit of a dilemma. The minty blue green was actually just blue.

I tried turning it wrong side up, I cursed Spotlight for their misleading neon lights, I phoned my Mum to ask her opinion, but there was no escaping the fact that it was Blue. And since blue is not a neutral colour, I scrapped it and bought a little lemon yellow polka dot instead. Happy days.

After all this work, I set the quilt aside for a day or so because I needed a little break. So I will leave the post here for now, but stay tuned for Part Two, where we will sew, pin, iron, and sew some more until we are FINISHED!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hello again... and some ideas

Hello! I have been missing in action for such a long time! I have been overseas with my work, and I have also been busy planning my wedding.

But it's time to get back into the swing of things. I have a very dear friend who is having a baby in July, and next weekend is her baby shower. I am thinking of making her a quilt for the cot or the floor, and because she doesn't know if it's a boy or a girl, I am going to do it in all white fabrics with different textures and patterns.

I went searching for some inspiration and found these lovelies:

This gorgeous girly quilt is from Quiltville. I love the simple square design which makes the fabric the feature. I also like the wavy stitching to hold the batting in place.

This sweet one from The Pink Palace is the kind of texture variation I have in mind:

And this lovely simple quilt from Sweetiebug is a great example of using neutral colours to make it safe to use for a boy or a girl! I also like the border around the edge, the bias finish is great.

Now to the fun part: going to the fabric shop. I'll keep you updated with my progress.

Meanwhile, thanks to you all for sticking around and I'm sorry for my long absence! I promise I'll make it up to you... and if I seem vacant, I'll be over at Another Ring Coming musing about all things bridal.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A cutie for the new year

... just thought I would show you my first creation of the year. Georgie giraffe. Available here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A feast to bring in 2011

Good day! How are you liking 2011 so far? I think it is quite good. Back to work tomorrow so my views may change, however, for now, I thought I would share my NYE feast.

You may recall the menu. Well, I started to prepare in the morning, making our desserts which were both cold. The chocolate mousse was first. Straight into the fridge!

Then, I made the Green Apple Granita. It was such a simple recipe. I don't have an icecream maker, so I simply froze the mixture in icecube trays and then whizzed them with my hand-held kitchen whizz. Here are the apples simmering in the sugar and juice.

Cold things done, I started on the first dish on the menu, the Tomato Soup. I made it from a recipe in the book Movida Rustica, a Spanish cookbook from the Melbourne restaurant. J's Dad gave it to me for Christmas last year. The soup needed to simmer for quite a while on the stove so I got it going early. Please note my blatant exhibitionism of my new kitchen spoons from Beehive Kitchenware!

Soup done, it was time for little things. Making the sauce for the fish dish, cooking the buttery leeks (another recipe from Movida Rustica), getting out all the plates for the different dishes. Here is Jon preparing his ceviche, with all our plates ready for action.

Then, after a brief pause for some sustenance, we tackled the trickiest part of the day: deboning a spatchcock for the ballotine. A ballotine is simply a fancy French word for a roll of deboned, stuffed meat. We watched this absolutely awesome and amazing video tutorial with Jacques Pepin, and it was actually really fun! Once deboned, I stuffed the spatchcock with a carrot poached in stock, chives, and bacon. Here I am wrapping it tightly in clingwrap, ready for poaching!

So! Into the fridge for the ballotine, and it was time to set the table and chill the wine. This photo shows our sashimi course, which I bought from the fantastic Claudios at the Sydney Fish Market.

I must apologise: from here on in, we were enjoying the meal so much that the photos are few and far between. We did snap a quick one of the vegetable course. Yummo vinagered carrots and the smooth and buttery leeks, and fresh radish.

I have to say that I am quite sad that by far the best course of the night - the Pan Seared Snapper with Corn Puree, Roasted Shallots, Chorizo and Basil - does not have any pictures. It looked and tasted absolutely amazing. I highly recommend you try it if you are looking for a fish dish to impress!

The spatchcock ballotine was absolutely delicious also - even though the preparation was a bit of a disaster. After feeling super proud about deboning and rolling so well, my cling-wrapped friend burst in the simmering water, and so poached without his covering. I thought that would be the end of the flavour, but we fished him out, and pan fried him to finish off the cooking. He was totally fine - and ended up looking very much like my inspiration photograph from Not Quite Nigella's dining experience at Astral restaurant.

After the ballotine came the delicious eye fillet with mash and artichokes, and then, after a brief sojourn to see the fireworks down the road, we came home to enjoy our granita and chocolate mousse in the New Year. And then, an epic washing up session later, there we were in 2011!

How did you spend your New Year? Any cooking adventures planned for 2011?